Sexual Health Education Project
In July 2006, after spending three months in Bolivia, Sharon Hopkins, a Master of Social Work student from Nova Scotia, Canada, along with help from American volunteer medical students Melissa Marinelli, Ben Gray, Lisa Jager and Lavinia Sinitean and clinic nurse Guinda Vallejos Guerra, delivered six sexual health education presentations to junior high and high school students in the towns of Yapacani and Buena Vista.
The presentations were part of a sexual health project that Sharon conducted for Centro Medico Humberto Parra. Sharon developed the presentations in response to the overwhelming need for sexual and reproductive health education geared toward teenagers and the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the surrounding communities.
25 to 35 students between the ages of 12 and 17 years attended the presentations that were held at local junior high and high schools. The hour-long sexual education sessions covered four sections: sexual rights, anatomy and the biology of conception, contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections.
At the beginning of each presentation, students were given a piece of paper and encouraged to write down questions about sexual health which would later be answered during the question and answer period. Student questions poured in, revealing curiosity about a wide range of sexual health topics, personal experiences relating to sexual health issues and misinformation commonly shared by students. Student questions most often pertained to abortion, sexually transmitted infections, particularly HIV, and the appropriate age to start having sex.
The project contained two other major components, one of which was the creation of a sexual health history form that complemented the general medical history form at Centro Medico Humberto Parra. The other component was a partnership between Centro Medico Humberto Parra and a government sponsored health post in Santa Cruz, Bolivia that could provide free contraceptives to the clinic. There were also unplanned but critical outcomes of the sexual health project, including increased sexual health awareness among local staff and foreign volunteers and the development of a sustainable sexual education program to be run by future volunteers. Sharon hopes Bolivian volunteers will also start leading the sexual health presentations and cites the need for a women's health education program and a locally run women's health post.